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Published May 20, 2013, 10:26 AM

Tractors rolling through RRV fields

After a late spring, Red River Valley farmers are getting a late start on planting

By: Fargo (N.D.) Forum, Agweek

It's late, but not too late.

That’s pretty much the consensus among farmers of the Red River Valley, whose machines were out recently, preparing the ground and seeding crops. It is a late start, but it seems much later because last year at this time, most crops had been seeded. Wheat fields had sprouted, painting the land with the beautiful green blanket that defines spring in the region.

Among the concerns this year is moisture, both in the soil and from the sky. Last summer and fall were dry — moderate drought conditions were the rule. Last year’s harvest, however, was good in most areas because of residual moisture in the soil from several wet years. That reserve was gone by the end of last year’s crop season, stirring concern about this year’s soil moisture.

Ever full of surprises, Mother Nature blessed the land with snow, including a couple of late-season wet snowfalls that added moisture to topsoil, although subsoil in most areas is dry. So, newly seeded crops likely can get off to a good start, but timely rains will be crucial for later crop development.

Ideally, rains will hold off until crops are in the ground. A drive up and down the valley will find lots of activity, as farmers put in long days to complete planting before the rains come.

Despite the uncertainty of farming in the Red River Valley, the ritual of spring planting always is uplifting. Production agriculture and associated agribusinesses remain the most important foundational elements of the region’s strong economy. As recent history demonstrates, when agriculture does well, the entire economy benefits. And that means all of us.